Groupon Taxes

I’ve written a couple of articles about Groupon on my sister blog, Canadian Restaurateur.  This is part of a series that will cover accounting for Groupon certificates, setting up your Point of Sale (POS) system to properly track coupons and discounts, using QuickBooks to enter Groupon transactions, examining the tax treatment of Groupon certificates (this one), and finally, determining whether your restaurant should consider Groupon.

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Taxing Theft

We all know that some amount of alcohol will be pilfered.  Don’t you love that word?  Pilfered.  Sounds like a mere pittance.  It is anything but.  As a rule of thumb, the cost of the theft will be about three times the cost of the alcohol that is, ah, pilfered.

If you’ve been following recent posts on my sister blog, Canadian Restaurateur, you may have noticed a theme. Theft.  All restaurateurs know that theft is a significant issue that requires our constant vigilance.  The cost of the stolen product is bad enough, but if you also have to pay tax (plus penalties and interest) on the retail value of the stolen product,  it becomes a huge issue.  Everyone knows it isn’t right that a restaurateur should have to pay tax “as if” the stolen alcohol had been sold. Unfortunately, that isn’t the way it works in most tax jurisdictions.

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Perfect Pour = Unreported Sales (and Taxes)?

Huh?  Do you mean that if I never over-pour drinks, my establishment can still be accused of under-reporting my sales (and taxes) during an audit?  That can’t be right!  Can it?  Unfortunately, it IS true for almost every restaurant and bar in Canada!  Today’s post explains how this happens and what you can do about it.

Most restaurants and bars use shot glasses or portion control pourers to accurately measure the amount of liquor that goes into cocktails, mixed drinks and shots.  Meticulously training bartenders and monitoring pouring, you’re fairly confident that your pouring is fairly accurate, if not “perfect”.  Even if it is, your establishment will be over-pouring all of your liquor drinks by at least 4%!

Why?

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CRFA Publishes Licensee Pricing Calculators Using The New HST

Recently, the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association (CRFA) published three calculators to help restaurateurs determine the effect on the new HST, effective July 1, 2010, on their prices.  The calculators cover wine, spirits and beer.  I’ve included the links, below.  You can read more and find a discussion on their use and potential effects on your menu pricing in July, here.

Wine Calculator

Spirits Calculator

Beer Calculator

The Real Threat

Despite what has been published in the press and disclosed by the CRA and the Ministry of Revenue Quebec (MRQ), the use of zappers has not reached epidemic proportions in the restaurant industry.  Zappers have been around since the mid-1990s, though most of the usage seems to have been confined to Quebec.  In fact, the vast majority of the convictions for sales tax evasion have occurred in Quebec.  For background on the use and abuse of zappers, please read this, this, and this.  The unfortunate thing about all of this attention is that it may draw our attention away from a far larger threat to our operations.  The indirect audit approach.

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Restaurant Tax Fraud – Then and Now

Recently, we’ve begun to hear a lot more about tax evasion in the restaurant industry.  More specifically, we’re talking about technologically-assisted tax fraud, using zappers or phantom-ware.  It made the news, again this past week, when it was disclosed that the Canada Revenue Agency had found more than $40M of unreported tax in the restaurant industry attributed to the use of zappers.  Today’s post looks at the issue of tax fraud in the restaurant industry and tries to determine how “rampant” it might be.

While tax fraud can occur in many different ways, when we talk about the restaurant industry, it usually takes the form of cash sales “skimmed” off and not reported for tax purposes.

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